Understanding harassment and bullying of learners in school: an education law perspective
De Wet Anna-Magrieta
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South African learners are often subjected to harassment, bullying and other forms of victimisation and abuse in schools. A duty rests of educators, schools and the Department of Basic Education to provide and maintain safe school environments that are free from harassment, bullying and other forms of victimisation and abuse. Having a clear understanding of the concepts that describe different forms of bullying and harassing behaviour can be regarded as one of the key-measures for preventing and addressing harassment, bullying and other forms of victimisation and abuse in schools is. Without a clear understanding of each of the concepts as well as what behaviour constitutes each form of misconduct, educators will be unable to identify and act on harassment and bullying when it occurs. However, a great variety of definitions and conceptualisations exist for bullying and harassment. Moreover, the Protection from Harassment Act came into effect in 2013, highlighting the need for a clear conceptualisation of harassment and related concepts within the school setting. This article analysed legal documents as well as theoretical conceptualisations of harassment, sexual harassment and bullying in an attempt to provide a clear conceptualisation that will aid schools to identify behaviour that amounts to harassment or bullying. Differences between the respective concepts as well as differences between permitted and prohibited behaviour received particular attention with a view to aid educators and schools in understanding which behaviour constitutes bullying and which behaviour constitutes harassment, including sexual harassment. The article concludes with guidelines for handling harassment and bullying in the school environment.
- Faculty of Education